Saturday 16 December 2017

Video: The 27 Club's latest member

Amy Winehouse's small musical output, in inverse relation to her outsized talent, made her death on Saturday in London all the more tragic.

But it's a sadly familiar script in pop music, the history of which is checkered with greats and would-be greats snuffed out too early in life.

Almost as soon as news of Winehouse's death broke and spread across social media, fans were inducting her into the unfortunate pantheon of music talents gone too soon. Many noted that Winehouse (27) shared the same age at death as Jimi Hendrix (far right), Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain (right) and Jim Morrison.

Singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, however, claimed that a mean-ingful common-ality was being mistaken for coincidence.

"It's not age that Hendrix, Jones, Joplin, Morrison, Cobain & Amy have in common," wrote Bragg on Twitter. "It's drug abuse, sadly."

Those names were touted on the internet as the "27 Club", a ghoulish glamourising of rock star demise that makes it sound as though even in death VIPs remain behind a seductive velvet rope.

It's a term, sometimes called the "Forever 27 Club", that has spawned a Wikipedia entry, a 2008 movie ('The 27 Club'), websites and at least one book ('The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll'). The causes of death vary. Jones, the Rolling Stones guitarist, was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool in 1969 and was ruled dead "by misadventure". Hendrix, having mixed sleeping pills and wine, died in 1970 in a London hotel room. Joplin, also in 1970, died in her Porsche in Los Angeles, with heroin suspected as the culprit. Morrison died of heart failure in 1971 in the bathtub of his Paris apartment. Cobain killed himself in 1994.

Some have claimed Cobain was aware of the 27 Club. After his death, his mother, Wendy O'Connor, said: "I told him not to join that stupid club."

Early death typically mythologises pop stars. Pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman, in his book 'Killing Yourself to Live', wondered why "the greatest career move any musician can make is to stop breathing".

Irish Independent

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